March 12, 2019 / 4:18 PM / 5 days ago

Vietnam asks Malaysia to free woman accused of Kim Jong Nam's poisoning

HANOI (Reuters) - Vietnam called on Malaysia on Tuesday to free a Vietnamese woman accused of the 2017 VX poison murder of the North Korean leader’s half-brother, a day after a Malaysian court dropped the same charge against an Indonesian woman.

FILE PHOTO: Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, who is on trial for the killing of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korea's leader, arrives at the Shah Alam High Court on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia March 11, 2019. REUTERS/Lai Seng Sin/File Photo

Foreign Minister Pham Binh Binh, in a telephone call to his Malaysian counterpart Saifuddin Abdullah, asked Malaysia to “ensure a fair trial and free Vietnamese citizen Doan Thi Huong”, the government said in a statement.

In a separate statement on Wednesday, the government said Justice Minister Le Thanh Long had sent a letter to Malaysia’s attorney-general, Tommy Thomas, asking Malaysia to free Huong.

Huong’s co-defendant, Indonesian Siti Aisyah, was freed on Monday.

She and Huong had been accused of poisoning Kim Jong Nam, half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, with liquid VX at Kuala Lumpur airport in February 2017. Conviction could carry the death penalty.

Minh said in the phone conversation that senior leaders and the people of Vietnam had paid close attention to the trial, the government statement said.

Huong’s father, Doan Van Thanh, said Siti Aisyah’s release was good news for his family.

“I believe that my daughter will be released too because she is innocent. We haven’t received any information from Malaysia recently, and we are eager to hear from them now,” Thanh told Reuters.

The court is scheduled to resume proceedings on Thursday.

Defense lawyers have maintained that the women were pawns in an assassination orchestrated by North Korean agents.

During the trial, the court was shown CCTV footage of two women assaulting Kim Jong Nam while he prepared to check in for a flight, allegedly smearing the liquid VX, a banned chemical weapon, on his face.

Siti Aisyah and Huong have maintained that they believed they had been hired to take part in a reality TV prank show.

Reporting by Khanh Vu and James Pearson; Editing by Nick Macfie

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